It’s the subject of countless festivals, ancient folklore and entire cookbooks, and is a flavor that people either love or hate. Garlic — the beloved small vegetable, or “stinking rose,” that’s been cultivated for over 5,000 years — is not only tasty, it’s incredibly good for you.
A Bit of Garlic Lore
Garlic has long been considered a food of strength. Ancient Egyptians put it in Pharaohs’ tombs and gave it to the slaves who built the pyramids. In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, athletes ate garlic before events and soldiers did so before going off to war.
Cultures in China and India are also known to have taken advantage of the therapeutic effects of garlic.
The Top Five Health Benefits of Garlic
Most likely, you’ve heard that garlic is good for you. You may, however, not know exactly why. Garlic, a member of the lily family, contains potent sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for many of its healthy effects, along with its characteristic odor.
Aside from providing manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium, garlic is known to offer the following healthy benefits.
1. Protect Your Heart
Eating garlic is known to benefit your blood pressure, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower triglycerides, prevent atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
These benefits are, at least in part, due to the sulfur compounds allicin and diallyl disulphide (DADS) (which are also found in onions, leeks and chives). These compounds help to induce the relaxation and enlargement of blood vessels, which improves blood flow throughout the body
In fact, eating from one-half to one clove of garlic a day may lower your cholesterol by up to 9 percent, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
2. Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
Compounds in garlic inhibit key enzymes that generate inflammation in your body. By reducing inflammation, garlic may help to prevent severe asthma attacks and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
3. Prevent Cancer
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating garlic is an excellent way to lower your risk of cancer. Compared to those who ate the least amount of garlic, those who ate the most garlic had a:
- 57% reduced risk for esophageal cancer
- 44% reduced risk for laryngeal cancer
- 39% reduced risk for cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx
- 31% reduced risk for renal cell cancer
- 26% reduced risk for colorectal cancer
- 22% reduced risk for ovarian cancer
- 19% reduced risk for prostate cancer
- 10% reduced risk for breast cancer
4. Fight Infectious Diseases
Garlic has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties that, when combined with its vitamin C, kill harmful microbes and fight diseases including:
- Cold and flu
- Stomach viruses
- Candida yeast
Garlic is also a potent antibiotic, fighting a wide range of pathogens, and studies show it even appears to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
5. Prevent Weight Gain
Among animals fed a sugar-rich diet, those given allicin from garlic did not gain weight like
those not given allicin, according to a study in the American Journal of Hypertension. The
researchers concluded that allicin may be useful for weight control.
The TYPE of Garlic Matters
Most of the health benefits of garlic refer to it in fresh form, so it is ideal to always use fresh garlic in your cooking (not dried, jarred or paste forms).
In order to convert garlic’s phytonutrient alliin into beneficial allicin, the garlic must be chopped or crushed. So if you plan to eat a whole garlic clove for health benefits alone, you must chew it first.
To maximize garlic’s allicin content, wait a few minutes before you eat or cook the garlic.
Delicious Ways to Eat Garlic
Spanish Garlic Soup
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 5 cups of beef broth
- 1 cup of dry sherry
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- French bread, sliced and toasted
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- Sauté garlic in the olive oil until 1. it turns golden.
- Heat the beef broth with sherry. When the broth reaches the boiling point, add garlic
and the olive oil.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste; then simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Strain out the garlic and reheat.
- Sprinkle toasted french bread slices generously with Parmesan cheese, then place them in a 425°F (220°C) oven for about 3-4 minutes.
- Put the hot toast in the bottom of soup dishes; then pour the soup over top.
- 4 heads of garlic
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried leaf thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Remove the outer peel from the garlic.
- Place the garlic heads in a baking dish.
- Dab each head with butter.
- Sprinkle the garlic heads with thyme, pepper and salt.
- Pour the chicken broth into the dish.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350°F (175°C) for one hour, basting frequently.
- Uncover the dish and bake at the same temperature for another 15 minutes.
- To serve, squeeze each clove and spread the soft garlic paste onto toasted French bread rounds.
© 2013 Health Realizations, Inc.